Highlights from the HamilTonys

Last night, Hamilton: An American Musical went in with a record-breaking 16 nominations and by the end of the show, it left with 11, just short of tying The Producers’ record of 12 in 2001. But you know what, it doesn’t even matter. The fact that this groundbreaking, impactful, diverse show has done this well at all should be an accomplishment enough. It’s obvious we’re big fans of Hamilton here (see: #HamilWeek), but we’re also big fans of theatre in general, so if you happened to miss any of the show last night, here are some of the best moments you didn’t see, and some you’ll want to relive over and over again.

The Entire Opening Number

Let’s be real, half the people tuning into the Tonys this year don’t even usually know they’re happening. For theater nerds like us, the Tonys have always been our version of the Super Bowl. But I’m willing to bet for all these n00bs who watched the Tonys last night, it was all about Hamilton. So naturally, the producers pandered to their audience and gave them a whole lotta Hamilton, including the very first bit, which was a parody of Hamilton’s opening number, Alexander Hamilton. Except the lyrics were changed to fit host James Corden. After that, James launched into a medley of musicals that made me think he was gunning for some kind of Guinness World Record. The whole idea of the number was reminiscent of Neil Patrick Harris’ sentiments in his opening number a few years ago (starting around 5:44, makes me cry every time), but the feeling still rings true – the Tonys are a chance for those young kids in the middle of nowhere to know that their “weird” obsession with theater and musicals isn’t just them. The end features mini-mes of all the leading musical actors and actresses and that’s what really got me. Surprise, I cried.

Andrew Lloyd Webber Playing Tambourine in an All-Star Jam Band

In homage to #Ham4Ham, casts of nominated shows stood under the Beacon Theater marquee and paid tribute to iconic shows of the past. Kicking it off were the nominees for Best Score, what winner Lin-Manuel Miranda called a “jam band”, featuring himself, Sara Bareilles, Steve Martin and Edie Brickell and Andrew Lloyd Webber. Andrew Lloyd Webber on tambourine. TAMBOURINE.

Audra McDonald, Queen of Tonys, Slays With Child

Even though she wasn’t nominated, six-time Tony winner Audra McDonald managed to still make headlines because she did this tap number pregnant. She’s 45. I want to be her when I grow up.

Cynthia Erivo & The Cast of The Color Purple

Listen, I can only spread the gospel of Cynthia Erivo so much (#WomanCrushWednesday and all), and her performance of I’m Here is, yet again, pick your jaw up off the floor flawless. Add in the rest of the cast of the Tony-winning The Color Purple – including newest addition Heather Headley – and you’re gonna need a few moments to gather yourself after your wig gets snatched.

Spring Awakening Takes Center Stage

The revival of Spring Awakening, which featured both deaf and hearing cast members, has been closed for three months. It was nominated for both Best Revival of a Musical and Best Director for Michael Arden (not Chris Fitzgerald), but in order to perform at the Tonys, you need to shell out literal thousands of dollars. Since the show isn’t open, Michael and the cast launched a crowdfunding campaign to get them to the Tonys and it worked! We got to see this inspiring new rendition of Spring Awakening and it was worth every penny. Thank God this show is going on the road.

Netflix Marketing Strikes Again

In the second season of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Titus talks about auditioning (and ultimately losing) a role in Hamilton. Because Netflix folks are essentially marketing geniuses, they created an ad specifically featuring Titus in what looks like his legit audition tape trying out for Hamilton. This commercial was played during the Tonys. Amazing.

This Pre-Show Huddle

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Behind-the-scene pep talk at #TonyAwards

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One of my favorite things about the Tonys and Broadway in general is that there’s a real camaraderie between actors and genuine love within the community. Everyone seems to be supporting others in a way you’d think is odd in Hollywood. Prior to the show, members of Hamilton, On Your Feet!, Shuffle Along and more gathered for a pre-show pep talk/prayer circle because they’re all on the same team, striving to do their best on stage. You won’t see Oscar nominees doing this backstage.

Commercial Karaoke

 

 

I think it was Audra who told James Corden that the best advice she could give him is just to keep everyone in the audience entertained throughout the night. It’s a long show, so make sure the crowd enjoys it. It seems he took this to heart because during commercials, he instated Commercial Karaoke and recruited stars to sing the great hits – including Sean Hayes and Jake Gyllenhaal singing Aladdin. Don’t say I never gave you anything.

Jessie Mueller Goodbye

Also Sara Bareilles rolling out on the Tonys stage with her piano knowing full well she’s about to wreck us all.

The Fashion

Usually our post-awards show post is a Best/Worst Dressed situation, so to fulfill that quota, here are some of my faves from last night, starting with the absolutely gorgeous Laura Benanti in Oscar de la Renta and stunning Nicolette Robinson (Mrs. Leslie Odom Jr.) in a flowing Christian Siriano gown. Of course our patron saint Lupita Nyong’o didn’t disappoint, while Sara Bareilles, Jane Krakowski and Adrienne Warren all did their thang too.

*I took a page out of the Tony producers’ handbook and saved the HamilTonys for last suckasss

Kings & Queens of Social Media

Unlike major Broadway phenomenons with fervent fan bases of the past (A Chorus Line, Rent, etc.) Hamilton came in an era where social media reigns and fans from all over the world can send one simple tweet to Lin and he’ll respond in Internet-language like he’s your BFF. The cast members of Hamilton kill it when it comes to social media, and on Tonys day, they did not disappoint. From my fave Andrew Chappelle taking over the official Hamilton Snapchat to Seth Stewart sharing backstage videos to the MOST turnt Broadway warmup ever, to my boo Oak posting videos of the boys dancing (just look at his whole feed from Sunday it’s worth it). This is how you werk social media, y’all. I freaking love this cast.

RENEE

I attempted to count how many times I cried during the Tonys, and I stopped because I was already at an obscene amount prior to the show started (thanks to seeing rehearsal vid of the HamilCast’s Rent bumper). I def stopped the cry count because I was sobbing SOBBING during Renee’s speech.

LIN

A) His fistbump/fireworks explosion with Vanessa. Definition of #CoupleGoals. B) Lin casually writing a sonnet like it’s easy. Literal genius. C) EVERYTHING ABOUT THE SONNET.

What Kind of Day Has It Been

Lin has long said The West Wing is one of his favorite shows and thus a big influence on Hamilton (“looking for a mind at work” in The Schuyler Sisters is straight from TWW), so it’s not really a surprise that he snuck this sly move in. The signal was used in S1E22, What Kind of Day Has It Been and basically alerted President Bartlet of good news. Good news indeed.

History Is Happening In Manhattan

For the first time in Tony history, all four musical acting awards went to people of color – Leslie Odom Jr., Cynthia Erivo, Daveed Diggs and Renee Elise Goldsberry. Hey Oscars (and everyone else still sleeping) – stay woke.

Look Around, Look Around

Everyone who won for Ham had a great speech, but the best way to end the show was with a performance with the whole cast (because, pandering but also, history). It was the most joyous number because everyone was dressed in their formal gear and not in revolutionary costumes. For once it was the actors having fun and reveling in their 11 wins. I mean what other show has actors that dab on the stage after winning all those Tonys?

Best of Hams & Best of Ham4Hams

Welcome to #Hamilweek! The Tony Awards are this Sunday, and until then we’re going to write like we’re running out of time (sorry). Hamilton is one of the first hit musicals of the social media era. Lin-Manuel Miranda and the cast realize that a majority of the fans can’t make it to the show, so they try their best to bring an up-close experience to their supporters through the magic of the internet. Case in point: Ham4Ham. Originally intended to give people who don’t win the ticket lotto a consolation prize, it has grown into a must-watch YouTube sensation. We could easily put every damn Ham4Ham on the list, but we tried to narrow it down a bit. Here are some of the best of Hams and best of Ham4Hams:

 

We Three Kings

Hamilton has been #blessed with three (now four) very talented men to play King George – Brian d’Arcy James, Jonathan Groff and Andrew Rannells. The great tragedy is that they never get to grace the stage at the same time. So it was invevitable that a Hamilfan suggested the three of them get together to sing The Schuyler Sisters. Request on Twitter and ye shall receive, so Lin organized this lip sync version featuring royalty. I love this because someone actually cut all the best angles together to create the best supercut. The fandom is great. – T

Star Techs

An amazing example of the behind-the-scenes coordination and dedication needed to produce a single number in the show. Ladies and gentlemen, I present stage manager Jason Bassett calling cues with the rhythm and timing of a star performer. -M

I Don’t Own Emotion, I Rent

For the 20th anniversary of Rent, we dedicated a week of posts to the revolutionary rock musical. Similarly, Lin sang What You Own with a very special guest (still not over this). -T

Patti LuP-owned It

Whenever I’m tempted to half-ass something from now on, I’m going to remember that Patti LuPone does the whole damn introduction to Give My Regards To Broadway that NOBODY DOES. -M

I’ma Compel Him To Include Women in the Sequel

First the Kings take over for the Schuyler Sisters, then the fierce women take over for A. Ham and the rest of the squad for My Shot. There was a rumor a while ago that the touring production was auditioning females for the male roles and vice versa – it proved to me false, but this video alone shows the ladies are more than ready to go. – T

THIS IS PAVEMENT YOU GUYS.

This is one of those Ham4Hams that has nothing to do with the show – not the performers, not the music, just members of the New York City ballet making my brain explode by performing on the sidewalk so beautifully that it made me want to cry. -M

WERK

For one day, the #Ham4Ham turned into #Bam4Ham, as the the cast took a field trip to Washington D.C. to perform for the president. Naturally, Lin took advantage of the setting and recorded three digital Ham4Hams, including this one, which again features the ladies of the show. I still get chills every time I watch it. Which is a lot. It’s a reminder that the story they’re telling at the Richard Rodgers stemmed from real events, not just made up characters for a Broadway show. That Hamilton and the rest of the founding fathers built this nation from the ground up, and these beautiful actors have the privilege of telling their story.  -T

Fun Ham

If you’ve read Chernow’s biography, or just engaged in some deep-Googling, you probably know that Alexander and Eliza had eight children. And if you’re a youngest or middle child, you won’t be surprised that everyone only talks about the oldest. The Fun Home kids bring the other Hamilton sibs to life and tell you a little about their accomplishments. Is Oscar Williams old enough to play Phillip when Anthony Ramos leaves (long may Anthony Ramos remain, though)? -M

Minamahal Kita

This Ham4Ham holds a special place in my heart because it was the video that informed me Lin’s longterm girlfriend in college was Filipino. And like the type of Filipino that taught her boyfriend conversational Tagalog. And that Lin is the type of person that would compose a song in Taglish (Tagalog and English) to mack on his girl. My brain exploded and all that came out were the emojis with heart eyes. Oh, also Queen of the Philippines Lea Salonga is in this too. -T

Heights4Ham

Chances are if you love Hamilton, you loved Lin’s first venture, In The Heights, as well … and this miniature ITH reunion was better than I even hoped for. Karen Olivo, everyone! -M

Funny Girl

Has anyone proven that Jasmine Cephas Jones ISN’T magic? At least a little bit?

Silky Strikes Again

Leslie Odom Jr. could me the McDonalds value menu and I’d be so enthralled by it that I’d buy every damn thing. But when you mix my fave track Wait For It with an emotional song like Stars from Les Mis – forget it. I am undone. -T

~*BFFLs*~

I love Jimmy Fallon. I love Lin-Manuel Miranda. They are both equally cinnamon rolls too precious for this world. So when they get together it’s sugar overload. What? Yes. Just watch. – T

If I Was A Schuyler

Tevye’s daughters from the Fiddler On The Roof (including Lin’s former intern!) make their best case for appearing as the Schuyler sisters. I’m sold. -M

Kyle Jean-Baptiste

Summer 2015: in addition to the diverse cast playing the founding fathers in Hamilton, Broadway had its first black Valjean in Kyle Jean-Baptiste. You could, and can, feel theater changing. This is bittersweet now: Kyle died tragically at just 21 years old, but thanks to this Ham4Ham we can still appreciate his talent.

Moo Point: Joanna Pacitti Was Robbed

Welcome to Moo Point, a series focusing on really old scandals, controversies and mysteries that are now so culturally irrelevant that our thoughts on them are moo. Like a cow’s opinion.


If you were a theater kid, you probably both loved and hated the kids in the Broadway cast of Annie. On one hand, those lucky kids were living their dream! On the other hand, those lucky kids were living YOUR dream. I was a hardcore child theater nerd – camps, acting classes, commercial auditions, headshots, even an educational video that I hope never surfaces – but I was nothing compared to the little pros in Annie. Although the Andrea McArdles, Aileen Quinns and Sarah Jessica Parkers get most of the Annie cred, if you’re a dyed-in-the-wool millennial you probably connect the most with the 1997 Broadway Revival. And leapin’ lizards, you’re probably still ready to serve a knuckle sandwich to whoever booted tiny, talented Joanna Pacitti.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s take it back … way back… to a show a surprising number of 10-year-olds were watching in 1997: Turning Point, a 20/20-type show on ABC. (In our defense, 20/20  did air right after TGIF, and how else were we supposed to learn that you can get scalped by a pool drain?) A Very Special Episode – advertised for what seemed like weeks – tracked the auditions and casting for the upcoming Broadway revival of Annie. You got to follow kids through open calls, callbacks, trying to act like they’re instantly bonded with Sandy, the crushing disappointment of rejection… and finally, the naming of a new Annie, Joanna Pacitti.  Even if you wanted to resent a kid whose acting career was going better than yours, you had to admit that Joanna was a great Annie. She had the tough kid act down, but could also play sweet. She looked like she was having fun. And her rendition of Tomorrow was note-perfect.

(Rewatching the above for the first time in 20 years, I remember how appalled I was at the kids’ acting ability as a child: most auditions I went out for required a more naturalistic approach, and the Annie auditions seemed to go more for girls who ACT like THIS, with some of their WORDS IN ALL CAPS!, like the spoken interlude in a Kidz Bop song. But the girls were just giving the producers what they were looking for, so hey, those gals could read a room.)

Before the show even went to the stage, Joanna became a national phenomenon.  She was on talk shows and was the talk of 5th grade classrooms everywhere. Her story became known across the country: just a regular Philly kid who got her start singing for tips at her father’s barber shop. As Annie took a roundabout route to Broadway via a national tour, Pacitti warmed hearts and gained positive reviews. In hindsight, the whole process of the 1997 Annie revival is weird: the laborious open call auditions, the reality TV-ification of casting (before “reality TV” existed as such), the national tour before the Broadway opening… it seemed almost like producers were trying to generate interest in the show that could have been accomplished by just, you know, opening a new production of Annie on Broadway. It was 1997. What were tourists going to take their 7-year-old daughters to, Rent?

Then, four weeks before the Broadway opening, the unthinkable happened. Well, unthinkable if you’re a girl who beat out thousands in a search for the new Annie: little Joanna got the ax. According to producers, the reason was concerns about Joanna’s acting ability and chemistry with Daddy Warbucks. In another statement, they said that after trying out understudies when Joanna got bronchitis, they just liked another kid better. The other kid, Brittny Kissinger, was the youngest Annie ever, a second grader carrying a Broadway show. Impressive stuff.

Still, I defer to my comment under the video – not a single one of those orphans were showing off their “acting ability.” They all did what my childhood acting teacher called “Barney acting,” shouting like an excited cheerleader hopped up on pixie sticks. Today’s viewers will know this acting style from countless Disney sitcoms. My point is, this production wasn’t going for realism in Annie’s performance, they were going for something between pep and moxie. It’s pretty hard to be bad at that, and I don’t think Joanna was. [Note: Joanna may have been a perfectly good, realistic actress in other contexts, but that doesn’t seem to be what the director wanted and that’s not what she gave him.]

What followed was a hubbub far greater than the initial casting announcement. Joanna was on Sally Jessy Raphael. She was an early guest on The Rosie O’Donnell Show, whose main platform was kids and musical theater (we both watched every day, yes). The story was in everything from Playbill to People. It even went back to Turning Point:

I mean, THIS is the girl that producers didn’t think was Annie enough to play Annie? She literally says “I’m not Annie no more.” What kid actually talks like that? Plucky orphans from the 1930s.

Then came the lawsuit. A flashy breach of contract case stirs my soul like musical theater auditions did when I was 10, so this part of the story is my jam. Joanna won a contest, and the prize of the contest was the role of Annie on Broadway. A lower court judge ruled that a Broadway role is “not comparable to other contest awards,” ergo specific performance can’t be ordered. But is there a breach? The third circuit court of appeals ruled that Pacitti had the right to have her case heard. Unfortunately for those of us who really want to know if this constitutes a breach, Macy’s settled.

As for Joanna? It’s all too tempting to say that the sun did come out. She starred in a regional production of Annie, which for a little kid is almost good enough. She still got to do what she loved. Joanna went on to pursue a pop career, and might have made a great American Idol contestant, except that the show’s legal team decided that she might have had too many ties in the entertainment industry – she was signed, at times, by both A&M and Geffen. According to her Twitter profile, these days Joanna is a singer and photographer. It comes as no surprise that the kid chosen to play resilient Annie is doing just fine after seeing the wrong side of show business – which, as they say, isn’t called show friends for a reason. My opinion may be moo by this point – the 1997 revival closed within months,  – but this 90s theater kid will always argue that Joanna Pacitti was robbed.

Tony Nominations To Celebrate That Aren’t Hamilton

We established a while ago that we’re basically a Hamilton blog now (seriously, check out all our posts here), so we could easily make another post gushing over its historic 16 Tony Award nominations, or how Lin-Manuel is a precious cinnamon roll of a genius that created a new American institution, or dissecting every bit of this video of Daveed Diggs getting woken up this morning with news of his nomination. We could go on.

No, friends, we’re not going to do that (today). Today is all about the other shows nominated that deserve just as much attention as Hamilton. I imagine it’s bittersweet being on Broadway at the same time as a groundbreaking musical. Everyone wants a ticket to Hamilton and it’s all anyone talks about, but there are nearly 40 other shows open right now. Any one of those productions would love to see you in the audience. But it’s like when you’re up against an MVP player and you have to step up your game just to keep up. It might be a little frustrating along the way, but for the sport (Broadway) as a whole, it’s the best thing that could’ve happened.

But at the end of the day, theatre is not a competition. If anything, it’s a community. A smaller-than-you-think community of artists who support each other and cheer each other on instead of tearing each other down. It’s been an incredible year for theater in terms of the storytelling, quality production and the talent on stage, so in that spirit, we’re putting the spotlight on a few of the other shows we’re rooting for come Tony day, and the names you’ll need to know when they end up winning.

Waitress

Best Musical

Based on the 2007 movie of the same name starring Keri Russell, Waitress centers on Jenna, a waitress at a small-town diner who’s in a horrible marriage, but ends up preggo. Other affairs ensue. Waitress also made history with its all-female creative team, thanks to music & lyrics by Sara Bareilles, book by Jessie Nelson, direction by Diane Paulus, and choreography by Lorin Latarro.

I had the chance of seeing Waitress in Boston last year before it transferred to Broadway, and hearing all the positive reviews of the show didn’t do it justice in person. I laughed, I cried (way more than I expected), I left feeling like a warm blanket had swaddled itself around my heart… is that weird? This is the only show I’ve seen out of this year’s batch of nominees, and TBH, it sucks it’s up against Hamilton this year because it deserves so much recognition for making a musical out of a movie – and feeling like the movie never existed at all.

Best Original Score (Music and/or Lyrics) Written for the Theatre

I can’t express to you how good this score is, and what a masterpiece Sara Bareilles has created. I can, however, direct you to her album, What’s Inside: Songs From Waitress, which features a few select numbers from the show. This was released after the Boston run and before they opened on Broadway, and so Sara’s version includes songs cut from the final show, including one of my faves, Door Number Three. This album is still in my rotation six months after its release. Sara uses that same talent she has to tug on your heartstrings with songs like Gravity and I Choose You and incorporates that same spirit in these songs. The official Broadway cast album comes out June 10th. Mark your calendars.

Jessie Mueller (Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Musical)

Jessie Mueller, Tony winner and ethereal goddess, was the clear star of the Boston production, and she’s still the clear star in the Broadway one as well. Here she is singing the most emotional number from the show, so get a tissue ready JIC.

Other nominations: Christopher Fitzgerald (Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Musical)

Eclipsed

Best Play

Written by The Walking Dead’s Danai Gurira, Eclipsed is set in 2003, near the end of the Second Liberian Civil War and tells the story of five Liberian woman and their survival against all odds. In another record for the Broadway history books, Eclipsed is the first play with not only an all-female creative team, but all-female and all-black cast as well.

Lupita Nyong’o (Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Play)

Listen, if you need to be educated on Queen Lupita, read this then go off on the Internet or watch her movies then come back. She is royalty. Royalty who is a step closer to an EGOT.

Other nominations: Pascale Armand and Saycon Sengbloh (Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Play), Best Costume Design of a Play, Liesl Tommy (Best Direction of a Play)

Shuffle Along, Or the Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed

Best Musical

Shuffle Along: A revue-style 1921 musical written, produced by and starring an all-black team. Shuffle Along, Or the Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed: A new musical telling the story of all the challenges the Shuffle Along cast had in mounting the production, and its effect on race relations and Broadway. Stars little-known actors Tony winners such as Audra McDonald, Brian Stokes Mitchell and Billy Porter and newcomers Tony nominees Joshua Henry, Brooks Ashmanskas, Brandon Victor Dixon and Adrienne Warren.

Adrienne Warren (Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Musical)

Shuffle Along is only Adrienne’s second Broadway show, but on Tuesday she earned her first Tony nomination. She’s one of those young actresses you know has a bright future on Broadway and beyond. And if you’re wondering why she might look familiar, she was in an episode of Orange is the New Black as a wheelchair-bound inmate who Pennsatucky attempted to “heal”. *I saw her in Lin-Manuel’s Bring It On musical and she was just as fantastic IRL.

Best Choreography

Tap dancing and Savion Glover. That is all.

Other nominations: Best Book of a Musical, Brandon Victor Dixon (Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Musical), Best Scenic Design of a Musical, Best Costume Design of a Musical, Best Lighting Design of a Musical, Best Direction of a Musical, Best Orchestrations

She Loves Me

Zachary Levi (Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Musical

Chuck is nominated for a Tony! Fun fact: Zachary replaced Ted Mosby who was originally supposed to star in the role of Georg, a perfume shop employee who is constantly at odds with co-worker Amalia. Unbeknownst to them, they’ve been secret pen pals the whole time. Sound familiar? It’s adapted from the play Parfumerie, which You’ve Got Mail (yes, with Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks) is adapted from.

Laura Benanti (Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Musical)

Cannot stress this enough: we love Laura Benanti. Love. Her.

Jane Krakowski (Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Musical)

Here’s hoping Jane channels Jenna Maroney if she wins.

Other nominations: Best Revival of a Musical, Best Scenic Design of a Musical, Best Costume Design of a Musical, Best Direction of a Musical, Best Orchestrations

The Color Purple

Best Revival of a Musical

I mean, you know what The Color Purple is, right? It’s the same plot as the book. And the movie. And the OG Broadway musical.

Cynthia Erivo (Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Musical)

If you don’t have goosebumps and/or tears in your eyes after watching that, check your pulse, because you’re probably dead. Cause of death: Cynthia Erivo. Look out for this one, y’all.

Danielle Brooks (Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Musical)

I don’t know what it is about Danielle Brooks but I cry anytime I think about her success. Or hear her sing. Or read an inspirational post on her Instagram. I’m so proud of her and I don’t even know her.

Other nominations: Best Direction of a Musical

Spring Awakening

Best Revival of a Musical

I admit I was a little surprised to hear Spring Awakening, featuring teens in late 19th-century Germany dealing with their sexuality, was being revived since it only closed on Broadway in 2009. But then I was totally game once I found out they were incorporating sign language and completely making the production its own. Fact: I saw the OG Spring Awakening U.S. tour thrice when it was in Boston for like, a minute. Another fact: I was a dumbass and didn’t see the revival in Los Angeles before it went up on Broadway, and am kicking myself for it. There’s supposedly another tour in talks. See ya there.

Michael Arden (Best Direction of a Musical)

Before Michael Arden earned his first Tony nomination as a director, he was known as an actor. I personally knew his name from the Off-Broadway musical Bare, but more so for this song, Run Away With Me. I don’t know how nerdy you and your friends were circa 2008, but there was a period of time when this Kerrigan & Lowdermilk song was THE JAM, and all the hot, young, theatre boys were doing their covers of it. Aaron Tveit, Jeremy Jordan, bright young high schoolers hoping for a shot of fame all uploaded their own versions of the song on the YouTube. Michael had one of my favorite takes on it, and this has nothing to do with Spring Awakening, I just want you to know he’s really talented.

Other nominations: Best Lighting Design of a Musical

I Should Tell You: Things From Rent I Didn’t Understand As A Tween

Welcome to EVERYTHING IS RENT Week – a celebration of the 20th anniversary of one of our favorite musicals, and a beloved show by millions around the world. We’re kicking it off with confessions, of sorts. Let’s back it up a bit. Rent opened on Broadway on April 29th, 1996. We were 9 and 10 years old at the time. Rent mania was at its peak in the years following, and since we’re both cut from the same musical theatre/Patti LuPone cloth, we became fans of the show in our tween/teen years.

And if you’ve seen Rent or are familiar with the music, you know it would probably be rated M for Mature Audiences, or at least get a TV-14 rating. Naturally, there were some plot points, lyrics, and insights we didn’t get at the time, but now as adults (and older than most of the main characters in the show), we obviously have a different perspective on life and understand Rent much, much better than before. Here are some of the light bulb moments we’ve had in the past 20 or so years, and hopefully we’re not the only ones who were a little late to the game. Get at us, fellow millennials!

Everything about Contact

T: I believe I was 13 when I saw Rent for the first time (full disclosure, I’ve seen it 8 times in total), and true story – I went with my church youth group. I didn’t go to a super progressive church, however I did go to a United Church of Christ, which used rainbows in all their logos for a while because they were pro-equality and stuff. Anyways, it was a group outing sans parents, and it was a majority of my friends and like two of our cool youth group leaders. However, when it came time for Contact, a scene which simulates sex, I was uncomfy to the max. I looked down at my program, attempted to stare at other non-condom looking pieces on the stage, but I mostly just blocked it out of my first Rent experience. I even skipped over the song when I listened to the soundtrack (I know, #prude). It took me a while before I could listen to it for what it actually was, and why it held importance to the story as a whole. Stay safe out there, kids.

M: Oh, I skipped over Contact EVERY TIME. Probably still would. We played a lot of cast albums around my house when I was a kid, and I think it was an unspoken understanding that we didn’t listen to that one. But am I wrong in thinking that the staging was kind of weird, and so was the song and, awkward tween moments aside, it’s the least catchy number on the OBC album? My inner Catholic School 11-year-old suspects that I am not.

Mimi was a stripper

T: So this probably seems obvious to most people, but Mimi Marquez (Daphne Rubin-Vega) was a stripper. For some reason, I thought she was just a straight up prostitute/hooker/lady of the night. Maybe it was the provocative clothes and the fact she was on the hunt for her dropped baggie of heroin in Light My Candle? IDK. I mean it doesn’t even really make sense, seeing as how I knew all the lyrics by heart:

Do you go to the Cat Scratch Club?
That’s where I work, I dance
Yes!
They used to tie you up
It’s a living
I didn’t recognize you without the handcuffs

I also thought he meant she got arrested a lot – because she was a prostitute.

HOLD UP WAS LIGHT MY CANDLE ALSO MIMI TRYING TO GET A LIGHT SO SHE COULD HEAT UP HER HEROIN???? HONESTLY I’M HAVING AN A-HA MOMENT RIGHT NOW IS THIS REAL CAN SOMEONE CONFIRM THIS? THIS IS BRAND NEW INFORMATIOn

M: I grew up next to one drug house and across the street from another, so yeah, that part wasn’t lost on me. (This is where our urban vs suburban upbringing really shines. In our musical theater analysis. Because whether from the streets or the culs de sac, we’re both mostly theater nerds.)

All About Akita

T:  I have a tendency to listen more to music and composition over lyrics a lot of times, which I personally find annoying. So when I first saw Today 4 U being performed, all I could focus on was this guy dancing in heels way better than I ever could. Listening back to it, I always thought it was just a fun song to dance to. But then I got woke and paid attention to the lyrics and it was an eye-opening moment to realize Angel had killed a dog for money.

A few things about this:

  • A rando woman (imagine Jacqueline Vorhees on Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt S1) rolls up to Angel in her limo and is all, ‘Dahling, be a dear, kill my neighbor’s dog for me because it’s too yippy and loud. But kill it using your talent as a plastic tub drummer, you know how you make a living. kthxbyeee’.
  • How would you agree to do this?? You’re broke and offered $1,000 yeah ok that makes sense.
  • But then you tell this story with glee to people you’ve just met?
  • Again, Jacqueline Vorhees wannabe was certain his drumming would make the dog kill itself: “I believe if you play nonstop that pup/Will breathe its very last high strung breath/I’m certain that cur will bark itself to death”
  • And then it did by jumping out the window of an apartment building.
  • Didn’t realize the phrase “Today for you, tomorrow for me” basically meant to pay it forward, and someone will help you when you need it the most.

Seasons of Love

T: By the end of 8th grade, I was fully obsessed with Rent. So much so that I managed to convince our music teacher to let us sing Seasons of Love at graduation. I consider this one of my greatest accomplishments, despite the fact it touches upon death. And it’s from a musical which features sexy, drugs, and death from AIDS. And I don’t think I fully realized that at the time. I don’t think my 60ish other classmates did either. You’re welcome class of 2000 from my Catholic middle school.

*PS: Please note pre-Hamilton Renee Elise Goldsberry in the video above, and also note the tears that will project from your eyeballs.

Learning La Vie Boheme

T: When I first listened to the soundtrack, I didn’t get about 80% of the references in La Vie Boheme. I could sing the entire thing back to you but there were so many pop culture references in the song that Amy Sherman-Palladino would be left exhausted. But, like ASP’s work, I had to look up and research all the words and names I didn’t recognize and TBH, Rent is the reason why I know who people like Akira Kurosawa or Vaclav Havel are. Art is educational, y’all.

PS: Still reeling from my Light My Candle revelation, TBH.

M: See, there was no tumblr in 1996, so young people had to list the stuff they were into in song, instead.

Nobody Pays Their Rent

M: I rewatched Rent this past Christmas, after the unexpected death of a too-young family member a week before. I fast-forwarded through all of the parts about, y’know, death and dying. HEY. Did you know when you take out the AIDS and tragedy, Rent is just a piece about financial irresponsibility????

When I was 9-14 years old, I was very “YES. You ride that bike midday past the 3-piece suits. Follow your heart. Follow your ART.” And at 29, these people annoy me. Get a job – it doesn’t need to be a traditional one, but thief and grifter aren’t jobs – and pay your rent. And stop being shitty to your middle class parents who probably sacrificed their dreams so you could squat in a loft avoiding their calls.

Bad Tippers At The Life Cafe

M: In real life, just about everyone I know who is, or once was, struggling to make ends meet is also a very good tipper. Running out on your bill? Way to stick it to the artsy bohemian cafe and the waiter who makes less than minimum wage because you’re supposed to tip him. I guess it just bothers me because they’re not even screwing over “the man.”

One Song Glory > Your Eyes

M: Roger’s song about writing a song: so good. The actual song Roger writes: so very, very cheesy. Is the takeaway that Roger isn’t a very good songwriter? Or is the rhyming dictionary entry for “eyes” set to music actually a great song, and I just don’t realize it?

Falling Quickly

M: In sixth grade, it didn’t occur to me that Jack and Rose’s epic romance was actually a few days of pre-dating infatuation. At the same age, I also missed that the whole first act of Rent is just Christmas, pretty much. Which means that Angel and Collins go from zero to I’ll Cover you real, real fast. Of course there’s more immediacy when best cast scenario you’re about to get evicted and worse case scenario, you have AIDS, but for some reason I thought everyone knew each other longer.

 

The Pros and Cons of BroadwayCon

If you’re a true theatre nerd, you know that over the weekend, hundreds of Broadway geeks converged at the Hilton Midtown Hotel for the first ever BroadwayCon – which is exactly what it sounds like. Like other fan-centered conventions, this one gathers fans with actors, creators, and behind-the-scenes folk who make Broadway Broadway. Co-founded by Anthony Rapp, of Rent fame, BroadwayCon featured panels from past shows such as the Rent 20th anniversary reunion, current shows like Hamilton, Spring Awakening and Fun Home, to future shows like Waitress, Tuck Everlasting and Disaster! The Musical. There were photobooth and autograph sessions, fan meetups, master classes, dance workshops and of course, plenty of singing.

Before we go any further, I’d like to make it clear that I was not actually there. I am merely a spectator from the World Wide Web. I saw rumblings of #BroadwayCon on Twitter a while ago, and just thought it was some small event in NYC, but I was wrong. After tracking it online all weekend, I’ve come to this conclusion about BroadwayCon – it seems like a mix of pure ecstasy but also the worst nightmare all in one. A whole room full of theatre geeks!!!! But also, a whole room full of theatre geeks :\ Again, before the haters start to hate, I wasn’t there, so I obviously am not an expert on this, it’s all from what I’ve seen on social media. So in saying there, here are so of what I can tell were the pros and cons of the inaugural BroadwayCon.

Pro: The only convention with an opening number

I’ve never been to Comic-Con or any huge convention except for the ATX TV Festival, which is more of a medium sized gathering of TV fans than an exhibition hall filled with thousands of people. But none of these cons have a song and dance opening number. So was I surprised to see that BroadwayCon opened with this? No. My reaction was OF COURSE. I mean, is there any other way to kick off a weekend of Broadway than this?

Con: #TryingTooHard

We get it, all of us are Hamilton fans, you don’t have to flaunt the “secret language” around.

Pro: The Room Where It Happens

Like any other HamiltonHead (is there even an official name for Hamilton fans? I’m sure there is. Kids under 21, get at me), this panel with most of the main cast was the most anticipated one at the con. Here are some highlights during the panel:

If you could change roles with anybody in the show, who would it be?

Daveed: Angelica
Lin: Lafayette
Renee: Aaron Burr
Philippa: Hercules Mulligan
Chris: Jonathan Groff, he’s onstage for five minutes!
Groffsauce: Angelica
Oak: Angelica
Leslie: Eliza
Lin: I think we have our next Ham4Ham.

How Leslie was approached to join the show:

“I got an email from Lin about two-and-a-half years ago, I guess. The subject was ‘Octoburrfest,’ a delicious pun.”

Lin is a rap teacher who gives pop quizzes daily

“At 15 minutes to curtain, Miranda can be seen trotting his iPod from dressing room to dressing room with his speakers blaring a beat challenging his castmates to cypher at his request.”

Freestyle Love Surpreme

During the panel, the moderator asked if anyone besides Lin, Chris Jackson and Daveed had ever rapped before, but the closed-captioning typist accidentally transcribed “have you ever raped before”. It was quickly changed, but Lin managed to incorporate it in his impromptu freestyle:

Werk

The panel ended with a singalong of The Schuyler Sisters, with the cast happily watching the fans from the stage. It was their rock star moment.

Pro: Your obscure Broadway cosplay will be appreciated

Theater nerds, especially actors, will take up any chance for dressing up and what better place to show off your Fun Home costume that you wore for Halloween that no one got than BroadwayCon? The cosplay at BroadwayCon obviously appeals to a v niche group of fans, which is kind of why I love it.

Pro: And It’s Beginning ToAnd It’s Beginning ToAnd It’s Beginning to Snow

It’s been 20 years since Rent had its debut, and Anthony Rapp gathered as many friends from the OBC and creative team as he could for the “10,514,880 Minutes: How Do You Measure 20 Years of Rent?” panel, including Daphne Rubin Vega (Mimi), Wilson Jermaine Heredia (Angel) and Fredi  Walker-Browne (Joanne). I watched the first bit of this live on Periscope and teared up a bit just thinking about how much of an impact the show has made on me, but all the other RentHeads and the cast and crew themselves. One emotional moment was when Daphne FaceTimed with Jesse L. Martin (Collins) and there was even a mini reunion between him and Wilson :emoji with heart eyes:

Con: The Wrath of Jonas

As you may have heard, or seen out your window, Winter Storm Jonas hit the East Coast hard over the weekend, with all the Broadway shows even canceling their Saturday performances. This led to the actors/guests scheduled to appear at BroadwayCon to also cancel their appearances, which I imagine is a bummer for those looking forward to attending the Hamilton dance workshop or the conversation with Fiddler’s Sheldon Harnick.

Pro: #BlizzardCon

On Saturday, everyone at the con was pretty much snowed in, so it turned into #BlizzardCon. It ended up being a huge blizzard party in the mainstage, complete with random phone calls with Broadway icons. Among the folks who called in but not limited to:

Literally a picture of Patti LuPone in the comfort of her (surprisingly rustic?) palace, while she talks to the hundreds of peasants at BroadwayCon:

Pro: Broadway Stars Singing Rando Songs

Unlike a ComicCon where actors show up and screen clips or previews of their upcoming films or TV shows, Broadway stars can actually perform and entertain in front of you. Live! There was a fair share of concerts throughout the weekend, including a “Jukebox” in which fans could vote on which songs the stars could sing, and there was also this mad lib situation in which you get to hear Anthony Rapp sing *a slightly different version* of What You Own.

Con: Fans Singing Rando Songs

Ok, don’t get me wrong, I LOVE a good singalong. I think it would be especially fun if it was from a Broadway show, something like this:

But then there’s the contingent of people, I imagine at BroadwayCon, who are getting up to sing as if it’s an audition. One of the things i dread at events like these are A) stupid comments/questions from the audience and general second hand embarrassment. If I was at this fan karaoke event, I would be anxious every time someone got on the stage, hoping they’d be good, on key and not hamming it up too much. Too stressful. This girl sounds pretty good though!

Con: Like Sutton Foster, BroadwayCon is Younger

Based on what I’ve seen, in looks like the demographic for BroadwayCon are teens in high school and musical theatre majors in college. These are the folks who are excited about seeing the people they’ve been listening to on repeat, seen from the rear mezz, met briefly at the Broadway Flea Market and made fan art for on Tumblr. I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with this, because I was like this as a teen, but as an almost 30 year old, I just can’t. The idea of being around that much energy 24/7 seems exhausting, and I’d just feel out of place. Recapping on my blog from the comfort of my bed 3,000 miles away is just fine by me.

Pro: There’s A Place For Us

In saying that, I think that BroadwayCon itself has been an event a long time coming. I always thought that being a theatre kid meant not being popular or not in the zeitgeist. I certainly didn’t feel like a cool kid at the theatre table during lunch in high school. But when I found out Comic Con was a huge thing for comic book nerds, I saw a whole bunch of different people gather for something I wasn’t particularly interested in, but acknowledged that something portrayed as geeky kind of seemed cool. Now, seeing photos and videos of #BroadwayCon make me think it’s so crazy that people are just as (probably much more) insane about Broadway than I am. These are the nerds who I sat with in the cafeteria. And those teens and MTs need something like this event, where you can connect, learn, and grow a deeper passion for Broadway and the arts in general. So keep up the great work, I can’t wait til next year – I’ll be here trolling the Internet like an old lady.

Peter Pan Live! – A LaterBlog

Well folks, it happened. Months of waiting and anticipating and dreading NBC’s live version of Peter Pan culminated in a two hour show last night, and boy did we have a lot of thoughts on it. Like last year’s Sound of Music Live! special, Peter Pan dominated social media last night and we’re still talking about it today. But if you didn’t get a chance to watch with the other millions of folks who tuned in, here’s your opportunity to join in on the conversation with our own recap/liveblog/laterblog of the show (queue up your DVRs or streaming devices or watch on NBC.com if you want to follow along). And if you did watch it, let us know what you thought of a flying Allison Williams and dancing Walken!

peter-pan

Traci: I would like to say that I’ve never actually seen this version of Peter Pan, so I have absolutely no idea what’s going to happen. I mean I know what’s going to happen, but I don’t know what’s going to happen.

Molly: Allison Williams requested that our inner children watch and live tweet this program. I am watching with my 7 and 5 year old nephews and they are already rooting for disaster. You tried, Marnie.

M: Either the audio and video tracks aren’t synchronized or all of this dialogue is lip synced to Ashlee Simpson-level cruddiness.

M: The harmonies on Tender Shepherd are pretty good! The kids are so cute, but the little one seriously looks like Timmy from Passions (who was adorable, so no shade).

T: Allison Williams was on Seth Meyers promoting PP recently, talking about the kid who plays Michael and how he asked her to stop saying the F-word so much. He also told her to eat wheat bread to be healthier. That is what I am thinking about while watching this kid.

T: Kelli O’Hara ::emoji with heart eyes:: (she is Broadway royalty, get to know her)

THAT’S A REAL ACTOR DOG, Y’ALL

I will say that the production value and camera work is great so far, much better than Sound of Music last year.

“I am the master of this house!” – Mr. Darling/ Monsieur Thénardier

T: THAT’S NOT A REAL TINKERBELL, Y’ALL

Say what you will about casting, but Allison Williams is just too delightful and I don’t have it in me to say anything bad about her.

M: AW is the identical hair twin of Androgynous Gym Girl, my college gym’s resident elliptical hog. A.G.G. had that haircut because it was the most workout-efficient, we theorized. And she only ate foods in bar or shake form because they metabolized better. Again, all conjecture. She just really loved that elliptical. Bitch.

T: Yo, Tink is a little bitch, doe.

M: Okay, Gotta Crow was sort of charming. I probably would have had a weird crush on this Peter Pan when I was 10. Crushed on a LOT of gay musical theater boys, y’all.

T: How do babies just “fall out” of their carriages??? #LostBoysMoreLikeDumbBoys

“Girls are much too clever to fall out of their carriage” BUT WAIT THIS IS SO TRUE

M: My 7-year-old nephew just says that Peter “has more magic than my Elf on the Shelf, even.” Okay, Allison Williams. You win this round.

T:  Whoa, I had like a nervous moment for AW when she went up in the flying rig for the first time. This is live television anything could go wrong. You’ve seen that YouTube fail from the high school production of this show, right?!? That’s what I’m picturing. This is obviously very different.

M: Screw it. I’m Flying is charming as hell.

T: Guys, AW is great. Whatever. I HAVE A LOT OF FEELS ABOUT THAT I’M FLYING SONG GOING INTO NEVERLAND THIS IS AMAZING. But also, stop integrating Shazam into my programs.

M: The 4-year-old just asked why they are flying over one of those Christmas villages. Shut it down, we have a baby live blogger on our hands.

T:  How do I get this miniature London cityscape outside my french windows?

T: Melissa Joan Hart has scored a series of commercials during Peter Pan Live promoting WalMart with her real family. Yes, her real family, and the internet went crazy for her attractive husband. My friend Scott had a perfect explanation for this:

T: That is actually Christopher Walken on an NBC live musical special on TV.

T: Christian Borle (Smee/Mr. Darling) look like he could be in Rock of Ages

Photo Dec 04, 9 05 05 PM

M: Well, the children aren’t scared of Captain Hook, but I am. Christopher Walken on a boat? Am I the only one still sketched out about the whole Natalie Wood thing?

T: What I love about Walken is that whoever he plays, he plays it brilliantly but still very Walken-y. Amazing. Also, he’s not even singing HAHAHA I LOVE IT.

OH MY GOD OH MY GOD TAP DANCING THERE IS TAP DANCING I’M CRYING

Photo Dec 04, 9 05 16 PM

M: This soundstage is so amazing that I want to hide out and sleep in it, Basil E. Frankweiler-style.

M: The 7-yr-old nephew would like to know how the Lost Boys got dance lessons if they don’t have parents. Fair point.

T: So many Newsies! Like actual Newsies. Like the Newsies who were on Broadway.

M: I love the cheesy island scenery. I mean that non-ironically. It reminds me of 1960s fantasy kitsch, like It’s A Small World.

M: So do they have to return the crocodile to Rainforest Cafe after, or.. ?

T: THAT’S NOT A REAL CROCODILE Y’ALL.

M: Something feels so wrong about a group of Lost Boys that look, you know, probably sexually active. And the Lost Boys are already forcing the virgin/whore/mother dynamic on Wendy. Congrats, kids. You’ve had a girl for all of 5 minutes and it’s already a patriarchal society.
Again, the LBs are all very good, but this works better when they cast Lost Boys who don’t have 401(K)s already.

T: Random aside: Bri Willy took the night of from the NBC Nightly News to watch AW in her big show. He said, “We will be watching the broadcast – immediate family only – sequestered in an undisclosed location – close enough to the production as to burst through the stage door the moment the credits roll.” CAN U NOT. I STILL CAN’T GET OVER HIM ANNOUNCING SHE WAS GOING TO BE PETER PAN ON TV.

M: EW. Wait a few minutes; when the grown-ass pirates start yo-hoing about stealing Wendy for their mother the Lost Boys don’t look so bad.

M: The Lost Boys are so old that their ratty Neverland clothes are looking like hipstery club clothes. Like a troupe of Lost Bois.

T: Anything that Walken does with his one hook is hilarious to me, apparently. Like this hitting the tambourine mess, I can’t.

… He’s not holding that major note right?? He is. He’s definitely doing that. Fun fact: they do something similar to this in Peter and the Starcatcher, which is a play about making the play of Peter Pan. Christian Borle won a Tony for playing Black Stache in it.

LOLZ TO THEM CUTTING BACK TO WALKEN HOLDING THE NOTE IN THE MIDDLE OF COMMERCIALS

M: On a scale from one to America, how racist is the Native American stuff going to be?

T: Because of social media, we are treated with gems from celebrities such as Anna Kendrick, who just gets it.

T: Is this where that Ugg a Wugg song is supposed to be? I appreciate that the producers hired a Native American consultant for this to rework the lyrics. Respect for not being racist.

M: The Native American stuff was, like, Pocahontas- level racist? The Disney movie not the historical figure.

T: For someone who doesn’t like to be touched, Peter does a lot of partner dancing.

oh hey alex wong from SYTYCD!

T: I love that the mic picked up everyone’s heavy breathing after that big dance number. Theatre kids – they’re real people too.

M: During the commercial I made my Lost boys some hot cocoa, and I missed a little but came back for the best musical theater lesbian duet since Take Me Or Leave Me.

M: My sister-in-law came in and asked if they’ve been speaking in English accents the whole time and scout’s honor, I could not answer. Not sure if that says more about me or the production – and for the record, I find the production magical as heck.

M: I aimed for Wendy’s bangs in 1997, so I kind of know what I’m talking about, and those puppies require some serious round brush action.

M: Marnie has some nice vibrato! If only Wendy’s cleavage weren’t looming over her. Dawson casting at its finest.

T: Yeah wait, what’s the timeline for this? How long have they been gone? Why isn’t there a search party out for the Darling kids? Mrs. Darling is gonna be all, “I saw a suspicious man about the size of my fist a couple days ago…”

M:  The song they sing about Hook is totally the same as the Gaston song from Beauty And The Beast.

T: “Who’s the creepiest creep in the world?” honestly never knew how amazing some of these lines were.

M: I don’t know how these child actors can memorize lines, nail blocking, learn choreography and execute stunts, and the kids I’m watching this with can’t even SIT STILL and PAY ATTENTION for one measly three-hour musical event.

M:  My favorite weird Peter Pan is still the Baby Sitters Club Super Special where they performed it at SMS, but you know what? This comes close.

M: This battle sequence has been going on a while but the Lost boys have been able to prep for it ever since John’s scar started tingling. Total Sorcerer’s Stone vibes.

T: It makes sense that the part that makes me tear up is when Hook throws Michael’s teddy bear into the ocean.

T: UPDATE ON THE CROC FROM THE QUEEN THAT IS LAURA BENANTI:

M: The kids’ mom is singing, and I’m almost expecting Sister Suffragette thanks to her costume. The kids come back, which is more than these garbage parents with the dog babysitter deserve. Just as garbage as the McCallisters, if you ask me.

T: On the real tho, if 12 rando boys came into your house and presented you with a single sock and then started singing and dancing would you actually take them in as your own? Mr. Darling’s answer to that is yes.

M: No wonder she raised Wendy to be such a pushover. Also the lost boys are all like 24 years old. So way to go, Mrs. Darling, you now live in an Edwardian frat house.

M: I didn’t know Minnie Driver would be in this! It makes me hate, a little less, the part where Wendy grows up.

T: Is this the story of how it’s possible to grow up to be Minnie Driver?

You’re all grown up!
Yes, it does keep a person rather earthbound.

M: Okay, overall I have to admit it. I think Allison Williams was right. I joked about the production – gently, and because that’s how I interact with the world or whatever. But I couldn’t tear it apart and honestly, I didn’t want to. Several years ago, a friend and I both discovered that we loved live action productions of Peter Pan. We’re probably not the only ones. I love magic. Whatever. No shame.

T:  So in full disclosure, I know a couple people involved with this production, including one of the Lost Boys (Tootles/guy with the top hat) and it is SO WEIRD for me to see him on TV. He has been in a few Broadway shows over the past few years, and it’s amazing to see this kid I used to work with share the stage with Christopher Walken. Because of my personal connection to the production, I had an obvious bias prior to this.

Before the show tonight, he wrote a post on Facebook acknowledging that people (read: staunch Broadway nerds) will probably criticize the show’s every move more so than a regular viewer, but to keep in mind to respect the work that this cast and crew has put in over the past two months. And I took that to heart. Thinking about when I was part of a production like this (not to this scale, obvi), you put so much time and effort into it, and then for a weekend or two, you get to show the world what you’ve been working on. It must suck to have critics hate on you IMMEDIATELY thanks to social media, so in light of my retrospection and respect for my friend, I tried to refrain from saying anything bad about this show.

Good thing is – I don’t have anything bad to say at all. The production value was outstanding, which can be difficult considering live theater isn’t meant to be tape and aired on TV in the first place. I thought Allison Williams was great – I was in the camp of pro-AW upon announcement of her casting, partly because I knew she could sing and partly because I didn’t know the show well enough to judge her. The fact that 90% of the cast had been on Broadway certainly helped bring the show to life, and all in all, it was a heartwarming three-hour show that families can sit and watch together for years to come. I believe.

Broad City: A Toast to Elaine Stritch

We lost a good one yesterday, folks. Elaine Stritch – actress, singer, and the ultimate performer – passed away at the young age of 89. Or at least that’s what she made it seem like, anyways.

Elaine was known for her brutal honesty. Her salty candor. Her tart tongue. Her brassiness (is that even a word?). Her refusal to wear pants. Her unwavering ability to tell it like it is and not apologize for it. She was the absolute definition of a broad (in the best way possible). Elaine was what a lot of women, and men too, I imagine, wished they had the courage to be. She was fearless and she was truthful, classy yet not, and admirable all at the same time. A true legend and icon that will never be matched in our lifetimes.

And then there’s her talent. Ooh did she have it. A lot of people from our generation or younger are most familiar with Elaine as the wise-cracking equally as opinionated and verbal Colleen Donaghy, mother to Alec Baldwin’s Jack. I think this clip properly summarizes her character on the show – behind the caustic exterior is a woman who is caring and loving, despite the fact she doesn’t show it. Like, ever.

But Colleen Donaghy was just a role towards the end of her impressive career. She made her Broadway debut in 1946, and went in to appear in Wonderful Town and a number Noel Coward plays. However it was Stephen Sondheim (Steve, she called him) that helped her become the iconic Broadway actress she is/was today. In 1970, she was cast as the vodka-stinger drinking Joanne in his show Company, a role she was born to play. Or rather, was born to play her.

The character of Joanne was not only written for Elaine Stritch, it was based on her, or at least on her acerbic delivery of self-assessment, as exemplified by a moment George Furth had shared with her: they had entered a bar at two in the morning and Elaine, well-oiled, had murmured to the bartender in passing, ‘Just give me a bottle of vodka and a floor plan.’”
— Stephen Sondheim in Finishing the Hat on the late, great Elaine Stritch (1925-2014)

Shortly after the show opened on Broadway, a documentary of the cast recording the soundtrack was released, and in a memorable scene, Elaine is shown recording her classic song Ladies Who Lunch to less than perfect recordings. She eventually got the hang of it, and  what resulted was an act of genius, both on Sondheim’s behalf and Elaine’s on point delivery.

Fast forward to 2002 when she opens her one woman show on Broadway, Elaine Stritch At Liberty (which you can view in its entirety here). She talks about everything throughout both her professional and personal life, like the time she had a horrible date with Marlon Brando or describing the pain she felt after her husband’s death with the only way she knew how – a song from Sondheim’s Follies. She won her first and only Tony Award for the show, and the same guy who made the Company documentary turned At Liberty to a documentary as well in 2002, earning her an Emmy for Best Performance in a Variety Special in 2004, providing one of the most entertaining acceptance speeches in Emmys history.

Elaine took on Broadway one more time in the revival of Steve’s A Little Night Music, and appeared in a number of cabaret shows, which she performed in a cabaret below her apartment. And by that I mean she lived at NYC’s Hotel Carlyle and performed in the cafe downstairs. Woman was still energetic even into her 80s (I mean, I’m obsessed with this interview from last year. Doesn’t miss a beat). In 2013, after being a New Yorker for years, Elaine decided to move back to her homestate of Michigan in a subrub outside of Detroit.

“She doesn’t miss New York? “You say that like it’s not true!” she says. “I feel good about being here. When the hospital sends for me, when the ambulance comes and I ease my way out of the world, I’d rather be in Detroit, Michigan, than Lenox Hill. Pfft.” She actually spits. – Interview with Vulture in 2013 {x}

With Elaine gone, there’s an Elaine-shaped hole in the world of Broadway, in the world, really. It’ll be hard to ever find someone like her on the stage again. But here’s a toast to what Elaine left behind. A legacy that will be cherished for years. The tears, the laughter, etc. etc. etc. She probably wouldn’t want too much hullaballoo and ass kissing during her time of mourning anyways. So, let’s just drink to that.

 “I pray that I may live expectantly. To live expectantly – what’s going to happen on Sunday, and on Sunday what’s going to happen on monday? In the meantime, stay where you fucking are and enjoy it the best way you know how.” – New York Times Interview, 2008 {x}

Come On and Sit Side by Side by Susan Blackwell

The 68th annual Tony Awards are this Sunday, which for everyone that isn’t a theater nerd like me, it’s basically our Super Bowl. In fact, I used to attend a Tonys party every year with my friends/co-workers from a theatre and it pretty much was our Super Bowl. I admit, I’m not a super geek like some of my pals, but I’m at a level where I watch videos of Broadway stars online in my spare time (or just, time).

A few years ago along my internet travels, I came across this magic web series called Side by Side by Susan Blackwell. Hosted by – you guessed it – Susan Blackwell, an actress who’s been on TV and film, but most notably in the theater world for her outstanding performance in the musical [title of show]. She recruits her fellow Broadway friends for an interview, but not just any interview, it usually takes place in an odd location and includes some kind of fun activity.

My first introduction to Susan was with this interview with Daniel Radcliffe while he was doing How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying in 2011, and he is legit cleaning her house. Yes, Potterheads, in this video, you see DanRad cleaning a toilet. Seriously. If that’s not enough to get you to watch this then IDK what is.

Actually I do. Susan is charming, hilarious, affable, and has a way to get her interviewees to talk about stuff that not many others can. Oh and she licks her guests on the face. The DanRad vid was a gateway drug into her other Side by Side interviews, so here now are some other standout videos from her collection.

Zachary Quinto

Where: Dog Park

Activity: Watching dogs in a dog park

Highlight: A rousing game of ‘Name That Dog’ and Susan ‘smashing ZQ like a pancake’ on a picnic table

Where: ZQ’s apartment

Activity: Having a sleepover

Highlight: Prank calling Jesse Tyler Ferguson & Smash star Christian Borle

Sutton Foster/Jonathan Groff/Laura Benanti

Where: In Bed/A Horse-Drawn Carriage/Hooters

Activity: Breakfast/Cuddling/Eating Wings

Highlight: Sutton lying in bed with her Tony gown and actual Tony/JGroff singing Left Behind from Spring Awakening/Susan handling Laura’s boobs

Jonathan Groff #2

Where: His parents’ farm in rural Pennsylvania (lit’rally Amish country)

Activity: Chillin in a hayloft, petting some horses and goats

Highlight: JGroff singing a part of Totally Fucked (from Spring Awakening) while shaking a bucket of corn kernels to get the goats to eat

Laura Benanti #2

Where: Ziva Meditation

Activity: Being zen on a couch

Highlight: Playing iPhone roulette and landing on a pic of her former Go On (RIP) co-star taking a nap in her own bosoms

Steven Pasquale

Where: Steven’s apartment

Activity: Using a Vitamix to make super healthy green juices

Highlight: Steven prank calling Taye Diggs and leaving a voicemail as Jim Carrey

Audra McDonald

Where: Great Jones Spa

Activity: Getting massages, drinking cucumber water

Highlight: Audra singing a fantastic version of the Spongebob Squarepants theme song

Norbert Leo Butz

Where: Strand Bookstore

Activity: Sitting in the parenting section

Highlight: Flipping through the pages of a book called Surgery of the Anus, Rectum and Colon

Andrew Rannells

Where: McKittrick Hotel

Activity: Playing with a Ouija board

Highlight: Imitating the pageant hosts on Toddlers and Tiaras

 

Woman Crush Wednesday: Laura Benanti

Today I’m starting a new series after the popular Wednesday trending hashtag, #WCW otherwise known as Woman Crush Wednesday. Now I know this is usually reserved for guys to tag their celebrity or real life paramores, but I’m going to take this time to talk about my girl crush on Laura Benanti. #SameLoveYall

If you’re a theatre nerd, or watched cancelled shows Go On or The Playboy Club or are a religious viewer of Law & Order: SVU or Royal Pains, you’re familiar with Laura Benanti. If none of those things apply to you, here is why you need to start paying attention to this wonderful woman.

The BROADway

Alright, so Laura is KIND of a big deal in the theatre world. She’s been in shows like Into the Woods, Nine, The Wedding Singer, and Gypsy, for which she won a Tony Award. So it goes without saying that this broad is talented. Like I mentioned above, Laura’s been on a few TV shows, making her one of those Broadway types that goes on to try their hand at the small screen – including her run on one of my faves (the whole one season it was on air) Go On, featuring her and Matthew Perry. That being said, she doesn’t always have the best of luck on TV, but luckily she can always return to Broadway and make fun of herself. This clip, featuring Andrew Rannells (The New Normal RIP), Megan Hilty (Smash AND Sean Saves The World RIP) and everyone’s favorite awards show host, Neil Patrick Harris (HIMYM, soon to be RIP) from last year’s Tonys is the perfect example of this.

The Sound of Music Live!

I feel like the masses were really introduced to Laura when she played Baroness Elsa Schrader on the recent live version of the beloved musical, Sound of Music (which we also liveblogged here). She and fellow Broadway vet Christian Borle made up the scheming pair of Elsa and Max Detweiler, and brought some of the Great White Way to middle America. It was like they were the representatives for all the Broadway folks and boy did they do their team proud.

Not to mention we got this fab meme out of it:

And GIFs:

PS: Check out Laura singing my personal fave song from the show, Something Good. Like who are you.

Bringing the Hilarity to Side by Side

I feel like I might need to do a follow up post just on this webseries alone. Side by Side is hosted by Susan Blackwell a ridiculously hilarious fellow Broadway gal. She interviews other Broadway stars, usually in odd places, and isn’t afraid to ask the hard-hitting questions. I think this particular one was one of the first – if not the first – she ever did, and it features Susan and Laura enjoying some treats in a Hooters restaurant. It also featured some other fab people, including Jonathan Groff in a horse-drawn carriage and in bed with Sutton Foster.

Making Twitter Her Bitch

I think what pushed my #wcw over the edge was by following her on Twitter. Like the Anna Kendricks and Josh Grobans of the world, Laura has managed to kill it every single time in 140 characters or less.